Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain
First Published -December 10, 1884 

  • Now we get to the good stuff: Jim decides that Huck should dress up like a girl and go to town to try and find some news.
  • Huck, obviously, thinks this is a great idea.
  • He puts on a dress (part of the supplies he and Jim found in the floating house), paddles in, and comes to the door of a little shanty. Through the window he can see a middle-aged woman sitting alone and knitting—prime bait for his scheme.
  • Huck comes up with a fun little name and story: he—ahem, she—is Sarah Williams, his/her mother is sick, etc., etc.
  • The woman is a chatty bird and tells "Sarah" all about the big news in town: the murder of Huck Finn.
  • At first, she says, everyone thought Huck's Pap was the man responsible, but then they decided it was Jim, since he ran away on the same night of the murder.
  • There's a reward out for both men: $200 for Pap, who ran away, afraid of getting lynched, and $300 for Jim.
  • But woman is sure that Huck's father will wait for the murder business to die down, come back after about a year, and get Huck's $6,000 cool as you please.
  • Oh, and the hunting party is going to check out Jackson's Island this very night, since she's recently seen smoke coming from that direction.
  • Huck gets all nervous and fidgety. The woman isn't as na├»ve as she seems, and she asks for the girl's name again. Huck answers: "Mary Williams."
  •  Oops.
  • He backtracks quickly and clarifies: Mary is his middle name, so he sometimes goes by that.
  • The woman goes back to talking about herself and her family and her personal problems, and the two of them have some fun throwing lead at the various rats infesting her house.
  • Unfortunately, Huck does an all-around awful job of acting like a girl, and the jig is up. The woman calls him out, saying she knows he is a runaway apprentice.
  • Huck is all, "Aw, shucks, you caught me" and spins another yarn about being mistreated.

A little piece of crossdressing/transgender history.


  1. Another version of how the woman verified that Huck was a boy has to do with Huck's lack of familiarity with wearing a dress. The woman tosses a small trinket into Huck's lap. Huck catches it by bringing his knees together and landing the trinket on his pressed together thighs. The woman knows that, back in the antebellum South, girls always wear long skirts. Anyone who had worn skirts for years would open her knees to catch the trinket, forming a wider landing space. In those days, a boy always wears pants. He would bring his knees together to avoid having the trinket fall between his legs. You are right. The woman is not naive after all.

    1. I remember that one, as well, although it's been so long that I don't recall whether it was from the film, the book, or both. I took it all to heart, though, because I dreamed of being able to run away from home and to start living as a girl where nobody knew me as a boy. Awareness of these little telltale signs caused more than just a bit of stress for me in the possibility of pursuing that dream. Of course, it didn't work out that way, and the stress stayed with me for many years. Funny, though, that just being honest with myself about who I had always been was all I needed to know.... "If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." — Mark Twain

  2. I remember reading, then re-reading, and re-reading again that whole part of the book. The one thing that really raised suspicion, as I remember it, was the way Sarah/Mary/Huck threaded the needle. A girl would not try to bring the eye of the needle to the thread; the thread goes through the eye of the needle. Some time later in my trans life, I used that as a metaphor for the way I felt about my gender identity. The thread of my life must pass through that small opening of opportunity that I may be afforded. Waiting for the opportunity to come to me is a long shot, at best. I think you would call that "escape," Rhonda.

  3. Gosh I remember this in grade school, my thoughts were Give me the chance, I would escape and just keep my new identity and not just use it as a disguise.